New Design Tool Coming from look
April 9, 2013 Dan Burger
The development of Web and mobile applications in IBM midrange shops is at the intersection of tools and talent. Companies with the talent are looking for the right tools. Companies that are short on talent, or have the talent but the talent doesn’t have the time, are looking for turnkey solutions. Either scenario is good for companies like looksoftware, which this week announced the soon-to-arrive version 10 release of its design and development environment known as newlook.
For companies with the talent to do this work in-house, newlook version 10 is worthy of reconnaissance. For those who want the Web and/or mobile apps, but not the work, looksoftware services should also be on your surveillance list.
For today, we’re going to keep the focus on product development and a few of the features that stand out in the latest version of newlook, which is scheduled to arrive in June, according to CEO Brendan Kay, who made the announcement April 7 during a press conference at the COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition, which is under way in Austin, Texas.
Assuming that you’ve already come to the conclusion that green-screen applications aren’t the answer to all your application requirements, the first hurdle that needs to be jumped is a decision on an application development and application modernization tool that can get you a modern interface quickly, easily, and without sacrifices in the functionality of current applications or limitations on future applications.
That’s exactly where the development team at looksoftware is emphasizing the enhancements introduced in Version 10 of newlook. The goal with newlook version 10, as Kay explained it, was to “make the design process more intuitive.”
Emphasis on Productivity
As people begin the journey of designing graphical screens, they place a high value on a design tool that is easy to learn and that simplifies the process. There’s a short and straight line that connects comprehension to productiveness. “Rather than learn the way the tool has to operate, we built a design tool that knows what the designer wants to do,” Kay said. “Simplicity when it is done right leads to productivity. Simplifying complexity means getting to the end goal more quickly. And because the designer is working with you, it becomes a more pleasant experience. The tool is not fighting you.”
I picture a hammer that doesn’t just pound nails. It knows which nail you want to pound next and it understands what you are trying to build.
Here are a few of the features Kay is talking about.
In most design tools, the process of getting elements–like entry fields or labels–to align requires the designer to follow multiple steps in a specific order and use a format menu. It’s not intuitive nor is it readily discoverable. And even once it is learned, it’s a multiple-step process that is a drag on productivity. In building a better designer, look simplified this process using what it calls “smart guides,” which handle the alignment without the tedious hand work.
“The guides pop up automatically when a user is ready to do alignment,” Kay said. “Most design tools have the capability for alignment, but we’ve made it more simple and self-evident.”
Another enhancement for the newlook design tool is what Kay called a “hint system.” These are message boxes that advise users when there are easier ways to accomplish tasks. For instance, if several application design elements (controls, for instance) are being identically sized, it is not necessary to size them individually because in newlook version 10 a group sizing can be done. The hint system within the designer recognizes what the developer is trying to do and it provides tips and techniques for simplifying, in this case, the resizing task.
One more example of designer enhancements in newlook version 10 is that while designing applications a user can launch into diverse browser environments such as Chrome, Safari, or Internet Explorer. The reason for the options is that application developers have their favorites and to limit the choices would naturally draw the ire of someone whose choice was not included. Being able to see how the application behaves in different browsers also points out slight differences in the way one browser sometimes displays a screen compared to another. This is a one-click step from the design tool, which in previous versions and in other design tools is a multiple-step process.
Emphasis on Functionality
RPG Open Access is a strategic investment for looksoftware. It is used to connect native RPG code with modern devices, platforms, and applications without the restrictions of the 5250 interface or the functional limitations of simply re-facing aged applications. Kay points to two benefits that RPG OA technology offers. The first is a single development process for multiple platforms, multiple languages, and multiple devices such as Web browsers, smartphones, and tablets. The second benefit is allowing RPG developers to continue developing in their native language without learning an additional language to leverage the back-end logic.
The majority of IBM i customers, Kay said, have a loose grasp on OA and some are confused by misinformation.
“We spend more time explaining OA than any other IBM i technology,” Kay said. “Typically companies have not thought about it until it comes up in a conversation with us, and only a few have solid grounding in OA.”
That’s not to say there is little interest in the technology. According to Kay, a looksoftware webinar with a focus on Open Access set a new registration record for the company. It topped the previous webinar attendance record by several hundred. Six sessions devoted to RPG OA are on the COMMON conference agenda.
Existing newlook users–customers on software maintenance–will get an automatic update to newlook version 10 in June. Those shops that are not on a maintenance contract will have an upgrade fee if they want the latest newlook.
Unicode Support for openlook
In addition to announcing the coming of newlook version 10, the company also noted the capability of its openlook product to integrate Unicode at every tier; databases, RPG code, and at the UI level. For companies that are RPG OA-enabling their applications, openlook is the piece that allows the separation of business logic from the 5250 UI layer connects the applications with look’s various development and modernization products.
“International demand for applications is becoming a standard requirement in today’s business environment,” Kay said. “Being able to add Unicode and multilingual support in a practical and effective manner is greatly increasing the value of IBM i solutions.”
Looksoftware’s openlook with Unicode and multilingual support is generally available for worldwide release.